Harrison Reed admits that Fulham’s relegation from the Premier League ‘hasn’t sunk in yet’ but the tigerish midfielder is already targeting an immediate return to the top flight.
The former Southampton midfielder has quickly become a favourite of the Fulham faithful after building on an impressive loan spell at Craven Cottage with an excellent first season after signing for the Whites permanently, despite the massive disappointment of relegation. The 26 year-old’s energy and reading of the game was pivotal in helping Scott Parker’s bridge the gap from Championship promotion contenders to becoming competitive in the league above, although he admits the pain of the drop is still very raw.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Athletic, Reed says:
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. For so long, we believed that we could really do it, that we really could stay in the league, and that we deserved to stay in the league. But over the course of 38 games, it’s not down to luck, we fell short. You can look back at key moments and say, ‘We were unlucky here’, ‘We didn’t get the decision here’. But there’s only so much that counts for.”
“We didn’t have the quality in certain moments to kill a game or see it out. It is really painful because for so long, we were so competitive. We were just the one goal away from picking up more points in certain games. Over the course of a season, that’s huge.
“It was difficult. We’ve gone from winning games in the Championship to being on the receiving end in the Premier League, and you’re in the spotlight with the coverage the Premier League gets. We found out early on that you make one mistake, even if it’s not a glaring mistake, but one player switches off tactically, out of possession, the opposition see it and they can score.”
“In those moments, you sink or swim. We had to understand where we were going wrong, where we needed to improve. We had to be brutal. The manager was brilliant; he understood the dynamics of a Premier League game more than what we did as players. He spoke to us at length about what needed to change how we needed to manage games better. We became a very competitive side.
“We had belief. It never wavered until it was impossible to do the job — that comes from the manager. Working hard, disciplined, not letting defeats kill us. While we haven’t been successful as a team on the pitch, in terms of building the mentality and building people, I feel that the manager has been successful.”
Reed reveals that, although it was a wrench to leave his boyhood club Southampton, he was eager to make the move to Fulham after helping them win the Championship play-off final and that he feels so comfortable at Craven Cottage that he is fully committed to helping the club return to the elite level of English football next season.
“It was an amazing season. I knew in my head that it was what I wanted to do, and I was pushing every day to get it over the line as quickly as possible. I felt it was the right time to move on. I feel like when you find the manager and a place where you feel at home, it makes the decision really easy. And that’s what I have at Fulham.”
Reed credits Parker both as a huge influence in bringing him to Craven Cottage and developing his game as a deep-lying midfielder.
“I got a phone call to say that Fulham were really interested and the manager wanted me. It was almost a perfect fit. It started with more detail, with how he wanted me to play, the job of that No 6 position. It’s an important position. It’s there for the build-up, to link defence to attack, to link the wide triangles to the opposite sides, to shut down counter-attacks.
“There’s a lot of detail that you need to know to be able to play that position in his team. He made sure I understood every part of the game. It was then about being a character in the team, about being an influence off the pitch. I feel like he’s given me that responsibility. I looked at the stats early on, and it wasn’t quite good enough in the first few games. I improved from that point: the duels, 50-50s, tackles, interceptions.”
Reed remains hungry for success and, whilst careful not to overlook the depth of competition in the Championship, believes that Fulham can realistically consider themselves amongst the leading contenders for promotion next season.
“My initial reaction after this season is to get back there as quick as possible. Listen, the Championship is a very, very competitive league, it takes a lot of quality and a mentality and consistency to be successful but last season and this season will stand us in good stead. I’ve really enjoyed the season in the Premier League. I’ve loved it, I feel like I’ve grown as a player. I can’t wait to get back there. We can do that next season.”